Lusitano horse

Discover fascinating facts about Portugal’s oldest horse breed

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine October 2017

Picture by Taty2007



  • One of the oldest horse breeds in the world, the Lusitano is thought to descend from to the primitive Sorraia horse, which was already present on the Iberian Peninsula at 20,000 B.C. They’re named after Lusitania, which was the ancient Roman name for Portugal.
  • Lusitanos are also known as Pure Blood Lusitano or PSL (Puro Sangue Lusitano) and sometimes even called ‘the living treasure of Portugal’. They are mostly grey, but can have any solid colour.


Fiery temperament

  • A close relative of the Lusitano is the Spanish Andalusian horse. Both are Iberian horses with a short back, powerful neck, strong hindquarters and a high-stepping gait.
  • Until 1960, the Andalusian and the Lusitano were considered one breed. The first official Lusitano registry was formed in 1966, when the Spanish tended more towards pleasure riding. The Portuguese breeders wanted to emphasise the Lusitano’s distinctive characteristics such as their fiery temperament, courageous spirit, lower set tail and more convex profile.



  • Lusitanos are known for their bravery, calmness and agility. They don’t panic easily and are willing and versatile. In the past, these characteristics made them a popular war horse, whereas nowadays, they’re often used as bullfighting horses.
  • In Portugal, bulls are fought from horseback, but not killed in the ring. Instead, in equestrian bullfighting, the bull is challenged by the bullfighter and horse. They charge at it, but then avoid a collision at the last moment, continuously moving to escape the bull’s horns.


Braveheart & Lord of the Rings

  • Apart from in bullfighting, the Lusitano is also used in high level dressage, jumping and working equitation.
  • Want to see them perform? Visit the yearly international Lusitano Festival in Cascais, usually held in June, where the horses participate in parades and various competitions. This event is organised by the Lisbon-based Associação Portuguesa de Criadores do Cavalo Puro Sangue Lusitano, the Portuguese Association of the Lusitano breed. Alternatively, watch Braveheart, Gladiator, the Mask of Zorro and Lord of the Rings, all movies which feature Lusitanos.


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine October 2017


Lusitano horse

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